Outrage. And weirdly, a little relief. "I'm going. I never should have come by." His hand on my shoulder stopped me. "Wait... listen to me." Reluctantly, I turned. His expression was still stern, but his voice had softened. "I'm not trying to be mean. You're the last person I want to hurt... but I don't want you hurting yourself either. You can ignore everything I just said, but I had to get it out, okay? I won't mention it again. You're the one in control of your life."
I looked away and blinked back tears. "Thanks," I said. I should have been happy he was going to back off. Instead, there was an ache inside me, like he'd torn something open that I was trying to ignore and keep shut away. An ugly truth I didn't want to admit to myself, which I knew was hypocritical for someone who claimed to deal in facts and data. And whether I wanted to agree with him or not, I knew without a doubt he was right about one thing: no one else would've told me what he just had.
"Why did you come by anyway?" he asked. "You sure you don't want to make my awesome painting the new Alchemist logo?"
I couldn't help a small laugh. I looked back up at him, willing to help him with the abrupt change in subject. "No. Something much more serious."
He looked relieved at my smile and gave me one of his smirky ones in return. "Must be really serious."
"That night at the compound. How did you know how to drive the Mustang?" His smile vanished.
"Because you did," I said. "You drove it without any hesitation. As good as I could have. I started to wonder if maybe someone else had been showing you how to do it. But even if you'd had lessons every day since you got the car, you couldn't have driven like that. You shifted like you've been driving manual your whole life." Adrian turned abruptly away and walked to the opposite side of the living room. "Maybe I'm a natural," he said, not looking at me.
It was funny how quickly the tables had turned. One minute he had me backed into a corner, forcing me to face issues I didn't want. Now it was my turn. I followed him over to the window and made him meet my gaze.
"I'm right, aren't I?" I pushed. "You've been driving one your whole life!"
"Not even Moroi give licenses to infants, Sage," he said wryly.
"Don't dodge this. You know what I mean. You've known how to drive stick for years." His silence answered for him, telling me I was right, even if his face was hard to read.
"Why?" I demanded. Now I was nearly pleading. Everyone said I was so exceptionally smart, I could string random things together and make remarkable conclusions. But this was beyond me, and I couldn't handle something that made so little sense. "Why would you do that? Why would you act like you didn't know how to drive?" A million thoughts seemed to cross his mind, none of which he wanted to share. At last, he shook his head in exasperation. "Isn't it obvious, Sage? No, of course it isn't. I did it so I'd have a reason to be around you - one I knew you couldn't refuse." I was more confused than ever. "But... why? Why would you want to do that?"
"Why?" he asked. "Because it was the closest I could get to doing this." He reached out and pulled me to him, one hand on my waist and the other behind my neck. He tipped my head up and lowered his lips to mine. I closed my eyes and melted as my whole body was consumed in that kiss. I was nothing. I was everything. Chills ran over my skin, and fire burned inside me. His body pressed closer to mine, and I wrapped my arms around his neck. His lips were warmer and softer than anything I could have ever imagined, yet fierce and powerful at the same time. Mine responded hungrily, and I tightened my hold on him. His fingers slid down the back of my neck, tracing its shape, and every place they touched was electric.
But perhaps the best part of all was that I, Sydney Katherine Sage, guilty of constantly analyzing the world around me, well, I stopped thinking.
And it was glorious.
At least, it was until I started thinking again.
My mind and all its worries and considerations suddenly took over. I pulled away from Adrian, despite my body's protests. I backed up from him, knowing my eyes were terrified and wide. "What... what are you doing?"
"I don't know," he said with a grin. He took a step toward me. "But I'm pretty sure you were doing it too."
"No. No. Don't get any closer! You can't do that again. Do you understand? We can't ever... we shouldn't have... oh my God. No. Never again. That was wrong." I put my fingers to my lips, as though I would wipe away what had just happened, but mostly I was reminded again of the sweetness and heat of his mouth against mine. I promptly dropped my hand.
"Wrong? I don't know, Sage. Honestly, that was the most right thing that's happened to me in a while." Nonetheless, he kept his distance.
I shook my head frantically. "How can you say that? You know how it is! There's no... well, you know. Humans and vampires can't... no. There can't be anything between them.
"Well, there had to have been at one point," he said, attempting a reasonable tone. "Or there wouldn't be dhampirs today. Besides, what about the Keepers?"
"The Keepers?" I nearly laughed, but no part of this was funny. "The Keepers live in caves and wage campfire battles over possum stew. If you want to go live that life, you're more than welcome to. If you want to live in the civilized world with the rest of us, then do not touch me again. And what about Rose? Aren't you madly in love with her?" Adrian looked way too calm for this situation. "Maybe I was once. But it's been... what, nearly three months? And honestly, I haven't thought much about her in a while. Yeah, I'm still hurt and feel kind of used, but... really, she's not the one I'm always thinking about anymore.
I don't see her face when I go to sleep. I don't wonder about - "
"No!" I backed up even further. "I don't want to hear this. I'm not going to listen to any more."
With a few swift steps, Adrian stood in front of me again. The wall was only a couple inches behind me, and I had nowhere to go. He made no threatening moves, but he did clasp my hands and hold them to his chest while leaning down to me.
"No, you will listen. For once, you're going to hear something that doesn't fit into your neat, compartmentalized world of order and logic and reason. Because this isn't reasonable. If you're terrified, believe me - this scares the hell out of me, too. You asked about Rose? I tried to be a better person for her - but it was to impress her, to get her to want me. But when I'm around you, I want to be better because... well, because it feels right. Because I want to. You make me want to become something greater than myself. I want to excel. You inspire me in every act, every word, every glance. I look at you, and you're like... like light made into flesh. I said it on Halloween and meant every word: you are the most beautiful creature I have ever seen walking this earth. And you don't even know it. You have no clue how beautiful you are or how brightly you shine."